Welp, the game on Saturday was more exciting than anticipated. It appears Purdue football is in league with cardiologists across the nation. Their refusal to do things the easy way has negatively affected my blood pressure, and I know I’m not alone. At the same time, I’ll take any win, and a Big 10 division road win is doubly important.
What I like about this team is their ability to adapt. The offense wasn’t working against Minnesota, but the defense stepped up to win the game. The defense wasn’t working against Nebraska, but the offense stepped up to win the game. At some point, Purdue is going to put the offense and defense together and put a hurting on someone (hopefully Illinois in a few weeks).
One thing that always surprises me is Jeff Brohm’s ability to get his primary receiver in 1 on 1 match-ups, despite the fact that everyone knows Purdue is looking to get their primary receiver into 1 on 1 match-ups. If you look at the opposing scouting report, I’m guessing “make someone other the Charlie Jones try to beat us” is near the top of the to-do list on defense. Nebraska knew what was coming, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. Jones had 11 receptions for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns despite having a bullseye on his back.
Brohm does a great job of designing plays to get Jones single covered, and O’Connell does a great job of recognizing when Jones is in single coverage. If Chuck is single covered, he’s getting an opportunity to make a play. His first touchdown of the night is an excellent example of how Brohm schemes Jones open, and how O’Connell gets him the ball when the opportunity arises.
Purdue lines up in their 10 package (1 running back, 0 tight ends), and then puts Devin Mockobee in motion, turning this into 00 personnel (one wide receiver is off the screen, field (wide) side). Purdue is looking to attack the area inside the black box with the yellow stripes. In order to achieve this, they have to clear out the traffic on the boundary side of the field.
Purdue forces Nebraska into single coverage across the field by shifting into their 00 package (deep safety and corner to the field side is out of the screen). They’re bringing 4 (including a linebacker), playing man across the board (including a linebacker on the running back) with a deep safety to the field (wide) side). Their middle linebacker is playing zone.
Cleaning Up - Pre-Snap
Purdue puts running back Devin Mockobee (purple box) in motion. This does two things. First and foremost, it give O’Connell a good idea about the coverage he’s facing. The linebacker (purple circle) runs with Mockobee, AOC knows he’s either looking at zone coverage, or, some sort of zone/man combo coverage. As an added bonus, it also clears a defender from the boundary side of the field. The throw Purdue wants to make requires an open throwing window. The more players Brohm can remove from the area, the better chance AOC has to find a window to make the throw.
The goal for Purdue is to isolate Nebraska’s boundary corner (yellow circle) on Charlie Jones (yellow square). Slot receiver Andrew Sowinski (blue square) is the key to this play. He has to keep the safety (blue circle) and the linebacker playing zone (orange circle) inside, and out of the throwing lane. He’s running a slant as well.
Charlie Jones has to set his man up for the outside release, then get across his face for the slant.
Nebraska is bringing a linebacker (light blue circle), which helps this play. That’s another player removed from potentially mucking things up underneath.
Mockobee (purple square) is holding the attention of the other Nebraska linebacker (purple circle).
It looks like AOC is staring down Jones (yellow box) from this view, but based on the safety jumping this route (even if he’s in man), I think he’s staring down Sowinski (blue box) in the slot. The safety is coming up already. This is also a function of down and distance. It’s 2nd and 6 and Sowinski (blue box) is running a slant from the slot. The Nebraska (blue circle) safety is worried about the first down, despite having help underneath from the linebacker (orange circle).
The depth of Sowinski’s (blue box) slant route is also important on this play. If he runs a quick slant into the middle of the field. The linebacker (orange circle) picks him up and the safety drops out (this is my supposition). If Sowinski runs a crossing route from right to left, the linebacker handles that as well. He has to threaten the safety (blue circle) in order to get him out of the throwing window.
Notice Jones (yellow square). It’s hard to see, but he’s setting up the corner (yellow circle) to break across his face. In order to do this, he takes a hard step outside. He wants to move the corner to his outside, to open up the space to cut across his face. The corner knows Jones can beat him deep, and this looks like Jones is going deep.
Anticipation, Wide Open Window
The corner for Nebraska (yellow circle) must feel lonely. In theory, Nebraska has 3 defenders (corner, safety, linebacker) and Purdue has 2 receivers (Jones and Sowinski). No offense to Andrew, but if you’re going to double a receiver, Charlie is the guy you should double in this situation.
The depth of Sowinski’s route (blue box) brings the Nebraska safety (blue circle) up, taking away the depth of the defense on the boundary side. This has to be frustrating for Nebraska, because the linebacker (orange circle) is in a good position to cover the Sowinski slant, but the safety still gets involved.
This leaves Charlie Jones (yellow box) on an island with the Nebraska corner (now in the yellow box as well). This is last thing Nebraska wants, and the exact thing AOC is wants. Jones is just out of his break, and the ball is already gone. O’Connell trusts Jones to get across the face of the corner, and isn’t going to wait around to watch it happen.
Sowinski (blue box) drawing the safety (blue circle) up is the ideal situation. It’s possible O’Connell fits this ball into the window without the safety (blue circle) jumping the inside slant, but the fact he does jump the slant, give Jones (yellow box) a clear path to the end zone. The back end of the Nebraska defense has no depth. If Jones (yellow box) can break one tackle, he’s gone.
One Man To Beat
O’Connell delivers a perfect strike on the slant route. Jones (yellow box) doesn’t have to break stride. The ball is out in front and into his body. This is perfection from AOC. If he’s off slightly, this still might be a catch, but it’s not going to be a touchdown.
The linebacker (orange circle) and the safety (blue box) are both out of the play.
This is called getting the ball to your play maker in space. If Jones (yellow box) manages to break one tackle, it’s a touchdown. Great play design (and Nebraska cooperated, thanks Nebraska).
Speaking of blood pressure spikes, I pleaded with Jones (through the television) to keep his feet on this play. A lesser athlete may have been swallowed by the turf monster after running through a tackle, but Jones fights to keep his feet. Having an elite kick returner at wide receiver is nice.
Charlie Jones breaking one tackle and having this type of space is hilariously bad defense. Under no circumstances should Purdue’s best receiver be in this position, and yet, that’s what makes Brohm a brilliant (if occasionally maddening) play caller. He gets the guy at the top of the opposition’s scouting report open.
Purdue made this look easy. I can assure you. College football is extremely hard.
This is the perfect call. This is a perfect throw. This is a perfect catch. This is a perfect run.
When everything comes together, Purdue has the talent to score on any team in the nation (including Ohio State and Michigan).